Tattoo Artist Sues THQ Over Designs Appearing in UFC Games

Over the weekend Joystiq reported about an interesting lawsuit filed against THQ by a tattoo artist named Chris Escobedo. Escobedo alleges in his lawsuit filed against THQ for using a tattoo he designed for MMA fighter Carlos Condit. Condit's likeness appeared – with the tattoo designed by Escobedo – in THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010 and UFC Undisputed 3.

Escobedo's argument is that the tattoo's design still belongs to him and that – because he created it originally and never signed the rights to over to Condit – he is entitled to compensation for it being digitally recreated in THQ's games. The lawsuit also claims that THQ's usage of Condit's likeness on its website for the games also violates Escobedo's copyright.

Escobedo is seeking "actual damages" caused by THQ's usage of his artwork, and an order forcing THQ to "detail all gains, profits and advantages derived by them by their wrongful conduct."

It's an interesting lawsuit because it raises the question about whether or not a tattoo artist owns the actual copyright on a tattoo design it puts on a person's skin – particularly when that skin belongs to a high profile celebrity or sports star whose likeness or image might be used in other mediums. If Escobedo were to win his case against THQ it could set a precedent and open up a whole series of similar lawsuits against game companies, television networks, movie studios, toy manufacturers, etc…

You can read the full complaint here (PDF). Thanks to ZippyDSMlee for the tip.

Source: Joystiq

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  1. 0
    Sora-Chan says:

    It'll be interesting to see the outcome from this. I do have my own thoughts on this issue.


    The wrestler probably paid for the tattoo to be put on him, and since the artist claims that it was his own original design, that makes it considered commissioned work. Meaning the owner of the tattoo is the wearer.

    In that context, what he's basically saying, in a different analog, that the builders/designers of a building has ownership of the building, not the people who paid the builders to build it and the designers who designed it. Simple enough of an analogy right?


    Even if the tattoo wasn't paid for, the artist used him as a canvas. And since the canvas can make its own decisions on how and where its portrayed, then its up to the canvas (in this case being the wrestler) to decide what to do.


    Either way, as far as I'm concerned, its considered commissioned artwork, and should be treated as such. Still should be interesting to see the outcome.

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  2. 0
    Technogeek says:

    If he never signed over the rights to the tattoo design, that would pretty much eliminate any chance of work-for-hire coming into play, so Escobedo might have a case. That said, THQ might also be able to claim fair use — there's plenty of room to argue that a digital representation of a tattoo would have no impact on the market value of the actual tattoo design, and trying to determine the typical fees for the sort of license Escobedo seeks would probably be too speculative for most courts to seriously attempt.

  3. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    So if the tattoo is under IP protection then the Artist must of signed a deal with the MMA right?

    If there is not paper work accounting for it then how can it be a protected IP?

  4. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    The guy who created Mike Tyson's face tattoo sued the production of Hangover 2 for the same reason.  I think that was settled out of court though.


    Andrew Eisen

  5. 0
    DorthLous says:

    I thought this was more or less settled with the photograph lawsuit, mentioning that the one taking the picture kept the right because he was the artist, even if he was commissioned to do so.

  6. 0
    SeanB says:

    Very interesting lawsuit. I'm really excited to see how this turns out.

    There are so many levels to this…. Does the tattoo artist actually own part of his Skin now? What if he was in a magazine (which i'm sure he has been)?

  7. 0
    omaha says:

    Funny how this guy decides to sue a game company first, rather than the much deeper pockets of television and movie production studios that created the movie and television shows he's been in, the magazine houses who's magazines he's appeared in, etc.

    And what is he doing suing THQ anyway?? Does he think he's going to get any money from a company that is fast going down the bankruptcy sink? Jeez.

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